AAJA Defined
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AAJA Defined

ELP Testimonial: Becoming the leader you’ve always needed

An education reporter on how ELP equipped her to face uncertainty and transition

By Sally Ho, National Education Reporter, Associated Press (2019 ELP grad)

For over 20 years, AAJA’s Executive Leadership Program has been dedicated to developing the next generation of journalists who can lead in uncertain times and build a sustainable future for journalism. As the deadline approaches to be a part of the 2022 ELP cohort, we wanted to share the words of Sally Ho, reporter at the Associated Press, who was part of the 2019 ELP class.

I felt like I was in deep transition when I landed in New York April of 2019 for a week-long leadership training program.

I thought it could be a helpful period of reflection but in fact, taking part in the Asian American Journalists Association’s Executive Leadership Program was actually life-changing.

It was around this time that I’d really started to think about my future in journalism. I debated if I wanted to be in management and wondered if I could even be a good leader. ELP helped me see that I could someday be the kind of editor that I’ve longed for and needed myself.

The program was academic in some ways, with eye-opening exercises on how to navigate decision making, power dynamics, learning styles and communication issues through the lens of the other person.

It felt like a mini-MBA session for journalists in newsrooms and satisfied all my “theorist” tendencies. Broadly, it helped me better understand myself and others. I’ve applied these lessons not only to my colleagues, but my family and friends, as well as sources and organizations I cover.

ELP helped me see that I could someday be the kind of editor that I’ve longed for and needed myself.

Most important from this experience was how our crew of journalists bonded. I cannot overstate how empowering it was to dedicate a week to our collective experience as journalists of color navigating an industry that has not been particularly built to serve people from different backgrounds like me and my peers.

I first entered the profession as a reporter during a time of collapse for many daily newspapers. The past decade of my career as a journalist focused on skill-building — how I could keep improving my craft and add valuable new experiences to my resume.

This appetite to perfect my techniques and tactics was fueled by a survival instinct in other ways too. I often felt like I had no business (or pedigree) trying to even be a journalist because so few of them seemed anything like me, or cared about people like me.

But I was now at a stage of my career where I could think beyond just staying afloat and employed.

ELP conditioned me to think about the future and the long game instead. It gave me permission to not only be a part of the journalism industry but think about how I could lead it. Since then, I have been pushing myself to consider advancement through a different lens. Instead of asking who it could be, ELP gave me the skills and confidence to ask myself: could it be me?

Apply to the AAJA Executive Leadership Program by Friday, March 25.

Liked this piece? Leave claps and share on socials. Be sure to follow AAJA Defined as we continue to chat with AAPI journalists and share their stories.

Sally Ho is a National Education Reporter for the Associated Press. Find her on Twitter.

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AAJA Defined showcases the lives and journeys of AAPI media professionals (and allies) shaping global narratives about Asian Pacific America and redefining journalism in inclusive, expansive, and visionary ways. Produced by the Asian American Journalists Association, est. 1981.

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